Ellen James

Hon. Ellen Sickles James (Ret.)

JAMS Mediator, Arbitrator and Referee/Special Master

Case Manager
Morgan Borg
T: 415-774-2657
F: 415-928-5287
2 Embarcadero Center, Suite 1500, San Francisco, CA 94111


Judge James has served as an arbitrator and mediator in numerous construction defect matters nationwide regarding commercial, public works, and multiple single-family-home and condominium developments involving civil engineers, architects, contractors, specialty sub-contractors, and interior designers. She is highly skilled at efficiently managing complex, multi-party disputes and is known for her effective communication skills.

Judge James has settled many cases throughout the United States. Her construction expertise encompasses a wide range of legal issues including lender liability, commercial real estate, residential real estate, building and safety code provisions, change orders and extras, insurance coverage, failure to inspect, and lien laws. She also has extensive experience with construction defect issues such as installation defect, personal injury, property damage, delay damages, and design defects.

Representative Matters

  • Mediated and resolved a construction defect dispute between plaintiffs suffering water damage and the allegedly negligent developer
  • Mediated and settled a number of subdivision construction defect delay lawsuits including cost overrun issues
  • Served as discovery referee and special master on complex multi-party construction disputes involving large California home builders
  • Successfully mediated single residence and multi-unit construction defect matters
  • Successfully settled a dispute between a city and a design group over defects alleged in the design and construction of a large public swimming pool
  • Successfully settled matters involving soil compaction at a neighboring construction site that caused damage to nearby homes
  • Mediated construction defect dispute involving breach of contract, negligence and breach of express warranty case arising out of the installation of solar panels on a 55-unit apartment complex
Completed Virtual ADR training conducted by the JAMS Institute, the training arm of JAMS.

  • Recognized as a "Top Neutral," Daily Journal Top California Neutrals List, 2013
  • Member, Gender Task Force, JAMS, 2008-present
  • Distinguished Mediator of the Year Award, San Francisco Trial Lawyers' Association, 2008
  • Member, Committee on Mediator Ethical Guidance, American Bar Association Dispute Resolution Section, 2006-present
  • Adjunct Professor at Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California 2002 and 2003
  • Lecturer for The American Bar Association, CEB, The Rutter Group, and numerous local Bar Associations and community groups
  • Above and Beyond Award, Alameda County Trial Lawyers Association, 1998
  • Served on the Judicial Council Complex Litigation Task Force, 1997-1999 and the Judicial Council Task Force on the Quality of Justice, 1997-1999
  • Chairperson, Contra Costa Superior Court Trials Committee and Civil Bench Bar Committee, 1991-1997
  • Organized Contra Costa Judicial Council Trials Management Program, 1991
  • Trial Judge of the Year, Alameda-Contra Costa Trial Lawyers Association, 1987
  • Member, Judicial Council Blue Ribbon Panel of Experts on Arbitrator Ethics
ADR Profiles
  • Presiding Judge, Civil Division, Contra Costa County Superior Court, 1991-1997
  • Superior Court Judge Liaison to First District Court of Appeal, 1990-1997
  • Presiding Judge, Superior Court Appellate Division, 1986
  • Associate Justice, (pro tem), First District Court of Appeal, 1985
  • Judge, Mt. Diablo Judicial District Municipal Court, 1976-1982; (elected Presiding Judge, 1978)
  • J.D., University of California, Berkeley School of Law (formerly Boalt Hall School of Law), 1969
  • B.A., Sarah Lawrence College, 1965

Counsel Comments

    • "The mediator [Judge James] was terrific...Settling at this stage made sense. We couldn't possibly have settled (we tried) on our own"

      -Partner at Seattle Law Firm 
    • “Judge James’ reputation as a miracle worker is WELL deserved and hard-earned… She is just outstanding, and incredibly insightful.” 

      - Well recognized litigator
    • “[Judge James’] unique blend of talent, experience, people skills, and perseverance was masterful [and] perhaps more impressive than anything I have experienced was [her] continued involvement with the process long after a ten-hour session of mediation.” 

      - Prominent founding partner of a nationally recognized law firm




This page is for general information purposes.  JAMS makes no representations or warranties regarding its accuracy or completeness.  Interested persons should conduct their own research regarding information on this website before deciding to use JAMS, including investigation and research of JAMS neutrals. See More

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